NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: State sticking to its guns in Amazon courting

Money may talk, but it’s nice to know it can’t always get its way. Especially when the temptation for big money might mean passing laws to please business interests.

The big money in this instance is the allure of bringing Amazon’s second headquarters and the tempting promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs to Indiana.

In January, Indianapolis was on a list of 20 contenders for landing the online retail giant’s new headquarters, which it says would be a “full equal” to its campus in Seattle. If Indiana were to win the bid to locate Amazon in Indiana it would be the largest economic development prize in state history, according to The Associated Press.

Tax incentives are one thing you can expect to use to attract new businesses. But legislation, including passing a hate-crimes law and lifting a ban on allowing Indianapolis to consider building a light rail mass transit system, was considered necessary for Amazon to consider the Hoosier state for its project.

Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Angela Smith-Jones said in January that Amazon has been “pretty explicit” about the importance it places on mass transit and diversity. “So to that point,” she told The Indianapolis Star, “I would say these matters are specific with regard to that bid.”

But the Republican-dominated Legislature was not intimidated. Despite a pro-business history, the Republican majorities in the Statehouse didn’t rally around either measure. They faced opposition from conservatives to the hate crimes bill, which died in the Senate in January without a vote. And anti-tax groups opposed overturning the state’s light rail ban in central Indiana, fearing possible high costs of the project would raise taxes. So while the vote to overturn the ban was approved by the House, 90-5, it stalled in the Senate.

Republican Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne and others say answering to Amazon’s demands before the legislative session ends Wednesday isn’t necessary. “It feels a little premature to go out there and create something before you know whether you’re in the game or not,” Long told AP.

Big business has the right to make demands in order to get its way. But Indiana doesn’t have any obligation to sell its soul to attract businesses to locate here. The state has been quite successful in attracting businesses due to low business taxes and low cost of living.

Amazon has reportedly made clear that tax incentives are a critical part of the review process to pick a winner with a decision expected this year. But our Legislature has showed them that if they holler “jump” Republicans won’t be responding, “How high?”